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Activists accused of using children as pawns in anti-mining strike

Australian Youth Climate Coalition
Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Organisers behind an anti-coal mining strike are adults accused of taking advantage of young people to serve their activist agenda, instead of letting students focus on their studies.

Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann criticised the Australian Youth Climate Coal­ition (AYCC) for being the primary supporter of the School Strike 4 Climate Action, saying the all adult-board and staff of 68 adults were just “using” children as “pawns” by making them leave school to attend the strike, which demands a stop to Adani Australia’s $21 billion Carmichael Coal Project, no new coal or gas projects, and 100 per cent renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

“I think that most Australians would take a very cynical view of professional adult activists using and abusing kids for this purpose, for their purpose during school time. During school time kids should be at school,” Cormann told News Limited. “They should not be used as pawns by professional adult activists as part of a cynical political strategy.”

Adult activist Anna Rose, and wife of former GetUp national director and Greens candidate Simon Sheikh, founded the AYCC in 2006 to build a movement among youth for solving the problems of climate change. The not-for-profit has a Board entirely comprising of adults plus 68 adult operational staff. Both Rose and Sheikh had voting rights to elect the Board, according to the organisation’s 2013 constitution.

Cormann has demanded AYCC to send the children back to school and let them join the political debate outside of school hours.

“I call on all involved to ensure that kids, during the day, during school time attend school,” he said. “It’s a free world and during their free time kids can pursue whatever agendas and issues they want to pursue.”

Outgoing Defence Minister Christopher Pyne questioned AYCC’s motive behind organising the strike as industrial action is usually a last resort when wage negotiations have failed.

“Usually strikes are when employees withdraw their labour from an employee so I’m not sure why the students are withdrawing themselves from school,” he told the Nine Network’s Today show. “It only damages their education.”

The mass protest is part of a worldwide demonstration, spanning more than 90 countries and inspired by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg who has been striking for climate action since August 2018.

AYCC admitted its staff is “helping to organise and giving support … young people are passionate but they may not have really organ­ised a big event before.”

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